This one’s for the Americans.
It’s July, therefore we’re embroiled in those debates again. You know the one, where some folk are demanding their god-given and Constitutional right to set of explosives anywhere and anytime they want to, and some folk are demanding their god-given and Constitutional right to not have their PTSD triggered, their children frightened, and their pets traumatized because someone else wanted noisy colors in the street in the middle of the week, in the middle of the afternoon, and any other random time and place.
And here and elsewhere we have the additional joys of drought conditions and fire bans, which would suggest to someone with half a fucking brain cell that MAYBE it’s not a good idea to set of fucking explosives where one spark could, oh, wipe out half a neighborhood (or state park). But noooooooooo.
The arguments are the same every damn year, until I could recite them a second before they’re posted, word for word. “It’s just noise,” “it’s legal in my town,” “why don’t you want anyone to have any fun?” And, inevitably, “it’s my right to be an asshole.” (Okay, that one’s paraphrased but it’s pretty much what they’re saying).
My PTSD is not triggered by explosions, and my cats have learned to sleep through crack-booms in the street, thanks to the overzealous Seahawks fans with touchdown-fuse gunpowder. But I am squarely in the “don’t fucking do it.” And here’s why.
Personal fucking experience.
I was 19 or 20, hanging out with my then-boyfriend for my town’s annual fireworks display, which was a huge event — people came from all over to see them. Families with small children on blankets, groups of teenagers, dating couples, all gathered within the enclosed “paid” area, the better to see the ground displays.
About 20 minutes into the display —which usually lasted closer to 30-35 minutes —there was an absolutely gorgeous burst, followed by a series of rapid-fire bursts, exactly like you’d expect to see at the finale, but without the sense of deliberate design you’d get in a finale.
And you could feel it in the air, the instant the adults realized that Something Bad had happened. There was a moment that there could easily have been a panic. And a lot of people were flustered enough to raise the stress level. Thankfully, many of the adults calmly gathered their kids up and headed for the exits, pretending everything was normal but not lingering to chat the way they normally would.
We didn’t find out what had happened until the next day. A backspark had managed to get under the tarp and ignite the yet-unused fireworks, setting everything off all at once. The entire grand finale, going off not well over our heads, but on the ground.
Take a moment to imagine all the damage that could have happened.
This happened, mind you, under the eye and control of a professional, with the backing and support of our local firefighters. The fact that they were on-site, with the training to react appropriately, was what kept it at “embarrassing fuckup” level rather than “tragedy.” You ever see what a powerfully-blown spark of that size can do to a field of grass? Or a parked car? Or the roof of your house?
And yeah, handheld sparklers aren’t the same risk as that, but I’ve seen (heard) the assholes (often several beers to the wind) on the street with munitions, and y’all aren’t using sparklers.
So to every amateur out there with a grab-bag of tent-bought explosives and a sharp desire to hear things go boom in your residential street: yes, I think you’re a fuckwit and I’m not going to apologize.
For everyone else, I wish you a lovely and safe 4th with your professionally-managed display of controlled explosions.